The June 10 declaration of environmental and economic jurisdiction and protection of Kitaskīnaw by Chief Rene Chaboyer is first step in Indigenous-led protection of the Delta
June 16, 2021, Treaty 6 Territory, Metis Homeland/ Prince Albert, Saskatchewan — The Saskatchewan Chapter of leading national environmental organization Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-SK) is proud to support Cumberland House Cree Nation (CHCN) in their latest step toward obtaining protection of the Saskatchewan River Delta.
CHCN’s June 10 declaration is an assertion by the Nation of greater economic and environmental leadership over its traditional territory, including the Delta. This declaration, as stated by Chief Rene Chaboyer, “reaffirms our sovereignty and asserts greater economic and environmental control over our territory.” He went on to declare that the Delta is now formally protected under the laws of his Nation, and that they would uphold their jurisdiction and responsibilities to protect the Delta from outside threats. This includes ongoing work to restore the damage that has already been done to the delicate ecosystem of the Delta.
A recent public opinion survey commissioned by CPAWS found that 79% of Saskatchewan residents supported greater environmental stewardship of the Delta.
CPAWS plays a coordinating role in the community-led nomination of the Saskatchewan River Delta as an area of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
“CPAWS Saskatchewan is proud to play a supporting role to Cumberland House Cree Nation as they continue to achieve their conservation-focused vision for their traditional territory and the Saskatchewan River Delta,” said Gord Vaadeland, Executive Director, CPAWS-SK. “For decades, First Nations and Métis people in Cumberland House have worked passionately to conserve their homeland and urgently address the impacts of upstream activities.”
“This declaration honours these decades of efforts by many and this landscape that is so deserving and in need of conservation,” adds Vaadeland.
“Let’s move forward in harmony with all Indigenous peoples and Canadians and set a new path forward that is ecologically sustainable for our Saskatchewan River Delta,” said Julius Crane, the CHCN councillor managing their Lands and Resources file.
CPAWS will continue to work with all partners in developing a co-management plan for the Saskatchewan River Delta. Investing in co-management of this unique region will achieve long-term positive outcomes for biodiversity conservation, local livelihoods, climate change adaptation, and affirmative reconciliatory action.
“This Declaration is a powerful demonstration of Indigenous leadership in conservation by Cumberland House Cree Nation. This action is a key step toward protecting the Saskatchewan River Delta for generations to come and will contribute to Canada meeting its ambitious target of protecting 30% of Canada’s land and water by 2030. Indigenous-led conservation offers a path forward for protecting and restoring nature in Canada, guided by Indigenous law, governance and knowledge systems, and in ways that advance reconciliation. Protecting ecologically and culturally significant areas like the Saskatchewan River Delta can also help diversify and support local economies, ensuring that healthy ecosystems and economies go hand in hand.”
– Sandra Schwartz, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) National Executive Director
“WWF-Canada is pleased to support this outstanding example of Indigenous-led conservation. All of the cooperating parties are to be congratulated, especially Cumberland House Cree Nation. Protected areas initiated by Indigenous peoples are playing an increasingly important role in helping Canada to meet its international conservation and climate commitments, while also protecting culturally-significant homelands.”
– Megan Leslie, President & CEO, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada.
“We support Cumberland House Cree Nation and their Declaration. First Nations have always been stewards of the land, but over the last 150 years policies of land and water management have been made without including First Nations and this has resulted in devastating impacts to the lands, waters, and our people. By resuming their rightful place as stewards of the land, Cumberland House Cree Nation will bring the process of healing the lands, waters, and people – that is reconciliation in action. Through this protection, future generations will have the benefit of being able to fish the waters, hunt the lands and gather their medicines and pass this knowledge down. These are our inherent and Treaty Rights and part of our way of life that we have never given up and will always fight to protect.”
– Chief Bobby Cameron, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN)
“The Saskatchewan River Delta is a treasured ecosystem that has always sustained and continues to sustain many First Nations and was kept thriving by the First Nations’ reciprocal relationship with the Delta. For too long, it has been degraded by government policies and decisions that do not consider or include First Nations’ voices – and [as of June 10] that way of doing business comes to an end.”
– Vice Chief Heather Bear, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN)
“The delta is big, productive, diverse and vulnerable. Larger than Yellowstone National Park, it benefits Saskatchewan, Canada, and all of North America by producing wetland-dependent mammals, fish and migratory birds that spread far and wide. Like many deltas worldwide, it suffers at the whim of our actions upstream. A ten-thousand-year-old supply of water and nutrient-rich sediment to the delta has been interrupted by dams and diversions, breaking the links between water, wildlife and people.”
– Dr. Tim Jardine, Associate Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan
“It’s tremendous to see Cumberland House Cree Nation stepping up to enhance stewardship and regenerative development in their traditional territory – the Saskatchewan River Delta. I hope Cumberland House Cree Nation engages with all local stakeholders and rightsholders to drive stewardship and regenerative activities. I also hope the provincial and federal government will support CHCN with investment and meaningful policy options.”
– Dr. Graham Strickert, Assistant Professor at the School of Environment and Sustainability, founding member of the Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan
The Saskatchewan River Delta is the largest inland delta in North America and the third largest in the world. Visit www.saskriverdelta.com/resources for more information.
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- The Saskatchewan River Delta is the largest inland freshwater delta in North America and the third largest in the world.
- The total soil organic carbon stored by the entire Saskatchewan River Delta is approximately 589 million tonnes, which is equivalent to the total annual CO2 emissions from an estimated 460 million cars, or 20 years of emissions from 23 million automobiles.
- Cumberland House Cree Nation’s traditional territory encompasses the majority of the Delta with an area of 1,195,025 hectares.
- The Delta supports over 100 species of plants, 10 lichen, 115 birds, 40 fish, and 30 mammals.
- Contains alvar sites, an extremely rare ecosystem occurring in only five countries across the globe.
The vast Saskatchewan River Delta (SRD) encompasses a plethora of wetland ecosystems and forests that provide critical habitat for numerous species, including several atrisk plants, birds, and mammals. The flourishing waters provide the breeding, staging, and molting ground for over 500,000 migratory birds across the continent and thus is designated as a global Important Bird Area (IBA). This iconic landscape has been home to Indigenous Peoples
for over 7,000 years and is the traditional territory of Cumberland House Cree Nation and the homeland of the Métis. The land has been an important provider of valued resources that are cherished by surrounding communities and other users worldwide. Important cultural and economic activities still take place today such as hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, ecotourism, sustainable forestry practices, local employment, and more.
Although the Delta has been an important provider, locals have noticed certain species populations (i.e., moose and muskrat, among others) have drastically decreased in recent years. Many have noticed an overall decline in the health of the Delta which coincides with upstream developments. The levels and flow of water into the Delta has diminished, impacting the biodiverse array of species and the Indigenous culture and livelihoods of those that live there. The Delta is slowly dying, and the traditional way of life for many is changing. As a global carbon
sink, a water filtration system, a host of all kinds of biodiversity, the Delta needs to be conserved for the benefit of all.
Approximately 500,000 hectares of the Saskatchewan portion of the Saskatchewan River Delta are currently being proposed to be nominated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Though Ramsar does not offer protection to the proposed area, it would raise international awareness of the area and endorse the Delta as an ecologically- significant and important wetland throughout designation.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land, ocean, and freshwater, and ensuring our parks and protected areas are managed to protect nature. Since 1963, we have played a leading role in protecting over half a million square kilometres. Our vision is to protect at least half of Canada’s public land and water in a framework of reconciliation – for the benefit of wildlife and people. For more information about CPAWS and the work we do to safeguard Canada’s natural heritage, visit cpaws.org. Join our community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Donate today. Take action.